Thursday
Jan302014

Daily Mail comments

Yesterday the Daily Mail ran a report on our recent jaunt from London to Edinburgh.

To be fair to one of my least favourite British rags, it was a fairly balanced report of the journey. The comments underneath (429 when I took the screen grab) are jaw droppingly predictable.

David Peilow, my co-driver on the trip is not only far more sceintifically qualified, he's also braver than me and went onto the Daily Mail site to post a comment to at least partially balance the rabid, blinkered and ignorant comments which run off into the night like overflowing sewage.

However the site managed to crash three browsers on two of his computers, so he sent the comment to me and I thought it was very succinct and clear.

Here it is:

 

I see there are quite a few comments that are a bit wide of the mark, so I'll bring some experience to the discussion.
- Yes the LEAF and other electric cars run on coal. They also run on wind, solar, gas and uranium. The great thing is that they can run on whatever makes electricity. No one supplier can hold us to ransom. If you work it out for the UK grid, the LEAF produces 56.2 g/km. Not bad for a mid-sized hatchback.
- Our drive to Edinburgh used 121 kWh. Just to refine the petrol for my old car would have taken 122 kWh. They don't include that on the label attached to cars in the showroom.
- If we had to pay for the electricity to fill up at commercial rates, it would be £1.38.
- I did this drive many times in a petrol car. It takes 7.5 hours plus stoppage time. The stops for lunch and coffee would add at least another hour. I'm happy to take a couple of hours longer for zero cost. I thought it might get tedious, but it didn't. If I'm in a rush I'll take the train.
- Nissan provided the chargers for the Ecotricity network and Ecotricity provide the electricity. Their wind turbines make so much that they can spare to give away the small amount needed to charge cars. Most of us drivers switched to them as suppliers anyway, so it's just good marketing.
- Once sites get popular, Ecotricity will install more chargers. In America, some places have 12 chargers already.
- The car in Newcastle with 50,000 miles on the clock HAS ONLY EVER BEEN RAPID CHARGED. Its batteries are completely healthy. There are cars in America built in the 1990s that are still working fine.
- Most people charge up overnight or at work. 90% of all charging happens this way. You start the day with a full 'tank' and most days never need to visit a service station. My Vauxhall Ampera hybrid goes months without a fill-up and gets 250 mpg.
- The UK grid has enough capacity to charge all 29 million cars overnight for 10,000 miles a year each.
- The LEAF starts at £15,990 but there are several second hand and ex-demo ones around for less. At my work we have a 24 year old graduate who leases one because the cost is less than old car's petrol bill.
- I presume that people so against EVs will be the last ones happy to pay £100 to fill their tanks. Or were happy for the West to send $2 BILLION A DAY (today's rates) to the Middle East for the last 40 years.

 

 

Sunday
Jan262014

London-Edinburgh. Mainly Mundane.

On Friday 24th Jan (average UK temp 3c) David Peilow and I drove a Mark 2 Nissan Leaf from Marble Arch London, England to Edinburgh Castle, Scotland in fractionally over 13 hours.

We had the heater on all the way, we drove at motorway speeds all the way (obviously we were constantly being overtaken by white vans travelling at 90+ mph) and never for one moment did we have 'range anxiety.'

We had planned the route, we always had a 25 -30 mile 'buffer' of extra range on the chance of a rapid charger being out of service.

So at this point I want to take my hat off to Ecotricity and Charge your Car because every single charger we used was 100% reliable. Not one teeny tiny hiccup.

David used an app called Leafspy which talks to the car by Bluetooth and gives very accurate, minute by minute data of energy use, battery temperature and estimated range etc.

Our total mileage was 407 miles.  The charge stops were as follows and at each one we were charging for 25 minutes or less.

Started in London with 19.61 kWh in the battery

1st Charge Newport Pagnell                         16.08 kWh

2nd Charge  Leicester Forrest East         15.9 kWh

3rd Charge  Tibshelf Services 14.8 kWh

4th Charge  Wooley Edge services 15 kWh  (this one was not really neccessary, see notes)

5th Charge Wetherby Services 10. 06 kWh 

6th Charge  Aston Hotel 18.06 kWh 

7th Charge   Hexham Leisure Centre 14.78  kWh

8th Charge  Newton St Boswells 16.9 kWh

A total kWh consumption of  121. 58 kWh

At average current UK daytime tarrif of 14p per kWh would be £17.02

Now, as I explained in the previous post, all the electricity we used is currently free but this gives a realistic indication of actual cost.

According to Google maps, the expected fuel cost in a petrol car on the same journey would be £77.05.

The last charge took us not only into the centre of Edinburgh but off over the magnificent Forth Road Bridge and up to Dumfermline where we met a jovial bunch of Scottish electric vehicle driver, I had some pasta and fell to sleep.

We were met by really wonderful, supportive folks at pretty much every charge point, we were given cups of tea and Stottie cakes in Hexham, wonderful border cake and tea in Newton St Boswells, we had coffee with Leaf drivers in Wetherby and obviously I need the loo.

We didn't really need to stop at Woolley Edge services but there were people there waiting to meet us so we plugged in anyway.

At one point I tweeted that I was getting 'bladder anxiety' long before range anxiety, it was a lighthearted 'joke' type comment. I immediately started getting tweets suggesting I have my prostate checked as 'a man your age' needs to be aware of such things.

I was touched by the concern, but not as touched as I was by my doctor only 3 weeks ago during a regular check up who described my prostate as 'normal.' If you don't know how a Doctor checks a chaps prostate gland for signs of abnormality, I'm not going to describe the procedure here, let's just say it's 'intimate.'

Anyway, what we discovered was that the rapid charger network, which is expanding even more rapidly than we travelled, makes long haul journeys in electric cars extremely do-able. We heard that while we were driving 3 new rapid chargers were installed and came online in the UK.

We stopped at Scotch Corner services where a brand new rapid charger had just been installed, we plugged in for a minute, it worked, we smiled and carried on. For the statistically obsessed, the Leaf batteries would have absorbed less than 1 kWh in 1 minute so I haven't added it to the list.

Obviously driving in an electric car is slower than in conventionally fuelled vehicles, most modern fossil burners would have to stop at least once for a re-fill and a few more times for a wee.

A reminder that this trip was to test the system 3 years on from Brian Milligan and David Peilow's 2011 London to Edinburgh trip.

Here is David's assessment of progress

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Jan152014

London to Edinburgh in an electric car

Three years ago a BBC journalist called Brian Milligan drove from London to Edinburgh.

Not exactly an earth shattering journey but, to be honest, he made a bit of a meal of it.

He was driving an electric car, a Mini-e, an experimental test vehicle that could only take a slow charge.

I'm not slagging off the Mini e, it was an amazing car to drive but it was used as a test car by BMW when they were developing the awesome BMW i3.

Brian Milligan reported how hard it was to drive an electric vehicle long distances and indeed it was very hard.

It was January, it was cold and he couldn’t have the heating on and it took him 4 days!

There was very little charging infrastructure 3 years ago and even if there had been rapid chargers on the route they wouldn't have been any use. The Mini-e wasn’t equipped to use them.

The media response at the time was huge, the usual suspects of the British press had a field day and every right wing news outlet in the USA carried the story, big time.

Every sceptic, every petrol head and know-all nay-sayer had a whale of a time, they sat back and laughed at how absurd this technology was.

Two days after Brian Milligan left London a man called David Peilow drove from London to Edinburgh in a Tesla Roadster and actually got to Edinburgh first.

David arriving at Edinburgh Castle

At the time the arguments raged in the intense and inward little world of the electric vehicle advocates and detractors but the overall impression it gave to most people was ‘electric cars don’t work.’

Now, to be fair to Mr Milligan he said that it was ‘a golden age’ for technological development and ‘in a few years’ things would change.

Well, now it’s 3 years later and as he predicted the picture is rather different.

This Friday the 24th of January David Peilow and I will set out from central London in a Nissan Leaf and drive to Edinburgh.

There is now a rapid charge network all the way there. The route we are taking is approximately 391 miles and David (who is good at maths) thinks we’ll do it in a leisurely 11 hours.

If you drove the same journey in a modern, fuel efficient petrol car and didn’t stop once, even for a wee, you could do it in 6 or 7 hours but I would suggest your bladder would explode before you got to Newcastle.

Not only that, you would spend a minimum of £70 on petrol whereas our journey will cost exactly zero.

Yep, you read that right, Starbucks may get a few quid but we won't spend one penny on fuel.

At the moment the companies who install and supply power to the Chargers, the main one being Ecotricity, don't charge for the electricity. They are installing them because

a) They are getting into the market 1st. It attracts customers (hotels, restaurants, diners, motorway services are all installing them)

and

b) They are supporting the change to hydrocarbon free driving

and very importantly

c) Electric cars don't actually use that much electricity. For a start, Ecotricity generates plenty of electricity from wind and the actual amount of kilowatt hours consumed by the few 1,000 electric cars on the road today is relatively small.

I will be making an episode of Fully Charged about it, but we will also be tweeting and bloggering about the journey as we head north.

So check the feed this Friday. Both here and on the Twitters, follow #LeafEL or #LEaf.... (i.e Leaf London to Edinburch or London-Edinbrugh af... uuuum) we can't decide which.

@bobbyllew and @dpeilow

 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Nov192013

Power Me Pull You

I had mixed feelings as I walked into the vast exhibition hall on Avenue Joan Carles 1 in Barcelona. This is the home of the 27th Electric Vehicle Symposium that takes place in different locations every 18 months or so. Last time it was huge and in Los Angeles, the next one is in South Korea and if it’s really been going 27 years, then that just shows how slowly things have progressed.

However, I predict a bit of a hockey stick in the graph, things are now moving very fast.

The mixed feelings I experienced were maybe as a result of attending too many events like it. Trade fairs, exhibitions, electric car demonstration days, endless rows of stands occupied by slightly tired looking sales teams all hopeful that finally this sector of the manufacturing world would really take off.

However, what is different about this event is the general mood and sense of purpose that’s floating around.

It’s certainly no longer a bizarre collection of start-ups and innovative garden shed companies showing off in wheel motors for slightly eccentric 3 wheel electric mobility units, although there is a bit of that knocking about.

The exhibition covers everything to do with electric cars, taxis, bikes, motorbikes trucks, busses, luxury hybrid yachts and supercars, but also charging units, battery technology, infrastructure systems, energy capture and storage units.

Lots a big, multi national companies are represented, Renault, Porsche, BMW, Nissan from car companies but also Qualcomm and their wireless charging technology, Brammo motorcycles from the USA, local and state governments, lots of them, politicians of every hue, transport ministers eagerly pawing at information leaflets.

Basically proper people with proper jobs who make decisions. So what the hell am I doing here?

Well I’m attending the event to give a talk about electric vehicle use and chair the closing panel discussion. It’s fascinating for an electric vehicle nerd like me, I would imagine for the average sane person it would hold less of a thrill.

What is clear though is the momentum behind this rapidly emerging technology. I no longer feel like a lonely fool blowing a worn out one-note trumpet, ‘parp parp parp, electric cars parp parp parp, they’re not as bad as Clarkson tells you, parp parp parp.’

It’s a sad and tuneless song and I’m knackered from playing it.

I don’t have to any more, the tide has turned, every country from Slovenia to Norway to France to even the UK, every state from Oregon to Massachusetts is obsessed, yes, I’m talking crazy keen to stimulate and support the mass adoption of the electric vehicle.

Not only that, but everyone seems acutely aware of the resistance from the general population, the diminishing but still very large mass perception that ‘electric cars are just not ready yet.’

So for those of you, the majority I’d say, who think the PR created myth of ‘range anxiety’ is a big problem, just check out this one easy to comprehend innovative product.

The Renault Zoe, 100% electric car with a realistic range of between 85 and 95 miles on a charge.

Perfectly adequate for 90% of all the car journeys we do.

But you want to ‘drive to Scotland’ or ‘drive to the south of France on holiday.’

So you pack your bags, hop in the car, drive down to the local ‘EP Tender’ hire shop, hire your trailer and set off. You can now drive an electric car non stop for 500 kilometres.

If there’s nowhere to charge, it doesn’t matter. Buy a couple of litres of fossil fuel and carry on.

The trailer contains a small 2 cylinder petrol engine that runs a turbine that creates enough power to keep the car going for days.

You can adjust it so that when you reach your end destination, you still have a full battery for pootling about without the trailer. When the holiday is over or the long trip complete, return the trailer. It's a single EV solution for every journey.

I think it’s all rather clever and thankfully Renault are keen too. I can’t wait to go to France and have a go, it’s a French company that makes the EP Tender by the way. Bloody clever stuff.

I won’t go on about the inductive charging systems they’re fitting into roads which charge electric cars as you drive along, or the myriad of car clubs, car sharing schemes and brilliant solar powered car chargers I’ve seen. I’ll save that for another day.

 

 

Friday
Nov152013

I Think it May Have Tipped.

The whole notion of disruptive technology and tipping points is fascinating but, I am hazarding a guess, utterly unscientific.
It's also very hard to spot while it's happening and very easy to pontificate about it after the event.

The seismic changes in the music industry are a good case. I would have bought CDs and DVDs in a big music store a few years back without ever imagining those massive institutions would soon just disappear.

I probably had some MP3's on my computer but a CD was 'proper music' or something. I can't even remember.
However, my seismic disruptive technology antenna are currently buzzing with fresh input.

Without question there is a feeling going around that electric cars are starting to make real inroads into people's thinking.

I'm not talking sales increases although they are taking place, even in the UK. I'm not talking charging infrastructure although that is expanding rapidly.

I'm talking public perception.

More and more big car manufacturers are introducing more and more electric cars and more people are beginning to at least consider the possibility that burning fossils to move along might be getting a bit dated. 

I know they are still expensive to buy new, but in some ways this is my point.

Every day I see cars that cost more than pretty much every electric car available, a lot of people buy a lot of really expensive fossil cars, the 1%.

They don’t give a hoot about fuel efficiency, they do care about status and luxury and ‘what the car says about them.’

Two cars I've driven recently are proper game changers.

The BMW i3 isn't like an existing car that's had an electric motor and batteries shoved in it, it's a totally new approach to how cars are made, what they're made from and how they move.

I loved it.

The Tesla Model S is such an extraordinary machine that any of the dull old arguments about range, speed or looks are knocked into a cocked hat.

I loved it.

I had a thought as I was driving. Up to now someone who can afford to buy a £50,000 plus car has had a huge list of excuses as to why they wouldn't buy an electric car.

As of March next year when the right hand drive Model S arrives in the UK, those excuses will melt away like a polar ice cap.

From that point on, when you see someone driving a high end Audi, Mercedes, Jaguar and the like, basically a car in a similar price range to the Tesla, we should shake our heads in dismay.

Why drive one of those when the Model S is not only faster, better looking and more efficient, it's also ridiculously cheaper to run.

10,000 miles in a hefty V8 petrol executive car doing 25 mpg which is more than generous, is going to cost around £2,500 to drive 10,000 miles.

A Tesla Model S, driven at the same speed on the same roads will cover the same distance for £400.

Now I will hear from someone who claims to average 85 mpg in their diesel Passat or something, but I am talking about big, posh cars that cost well in excess of £50,000, not economy sensible ones. 

I'm being generous to the petrol car and cruel and strict to the Tesla. 

Is it the tipping point? I don’t know for sure but it certainly feels like one.